BMW and WSR qualified on the second row of the grid for Sunday’s British Touring Car Championship triple-header at Knockhill after an heroic effort by Jake Hill and the crew of his BMW 330e M Sport in an action-packed session.
Having set the fastest lap across two wet morning free practice session, Kent racer Jake went into qualifying – which also began on a wet track – as one of a number of pole-position contenders.
But last year’s Knockhill polesitter ran off track exiting the ultra-fast Duffus Dip early in the two-part session and damaged the floor of his Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport BMW, leading to a nervous wait in the pits as team mechanics began repairs.
Ultra-quick work meant that Jake was able to rejoin the session with five minutes of Q1 remaining and he pumped in a stunning lap to go fastest of all and seal his place in the Q2 ‘Top-10 Showdown’.
An even quicker effort got him within 0.029 seconds of a second-straight Knockhill pole position and made him the fastest of the four WSR BMW drivers overall.
Just 0.2s behind Jake was Team BMW’s Adam Morgan, who equalled his best qualifying result of the 2023 season in sixth spot.
The Lancashire racer ran competitively throughout qualifying and maximised his opportunities on a dry track to qualify on the third row.
Directly behind him on the grid will be team-mate Colin Turkington, who qualified eighth after running wide at the chicane on the final lap and losing momentum as he chased a quicker time.
The four-time champion had the least hybrid available of all the BMW drivers owing to his third place in the standings, but still ensured three WSR cars will start tomorrow’s opener from inside the top 10.
Stephen Jelley showed plenty of pace in both wet and dry conditions as well, but an unfortunate spin at McIntyres for the Leicester racer just a minute from the end of Q1 triggered the red flags while he lay sixth on the timesheets.
The Leicester driver was then hit with two pieces of bad luck; the damage caused to the underside of the Team BMW 3 Series by the uneven grass meant he could not rejoin the session.
Additionally, the re-setting of the clock once the session resumed gave all his rivals five whole minutes to improve their times with the track now at it its driest; the result being he dropped to 18th on the grid.
Tomorrow’s three races, which make up the seventh of 10 BTCC rounds this year, are all screened live on ITV4 from 1115 am.
Jake Hill (Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport) said: “I’m happy with third. I desperately wanted pole today and I think the BMW was fast enough. I lobbed it off at Turn 1 early on and I thought it was over at that point, but the crew did an amazing job to get me back out and I had just enough time on a drying track to get into Q2. It was hard work, but it’s been well worth it. If I can make a couple of improvements and we can tweak the car a bit then I think we have a chance to fight for a couple of podiums or a win tomorrow.”
Adam Morgan (Team BMW) said: “I really needed that. I’m mega-happy with how today’s gone. At the end of the session it was pretty much bone dry and the track was getting faster and faster as more rubber went down. We set the BMW up for a wet session and didn’t change things other than the tyres. Here it’s always close for pole and I’m in a fortunate position where I have more hybrid than Jake or Colin and I think we’ve maximised it and set ourselves up for a good day tomorrow.”
Colin Turkington (Team BMW) said: “It’s been a difficult day. Qualifying was the first time running in the dry, but even in the wet I haven’t been so comfortable with the balance, so we haven’t been right there on the pace. With the limited dry running we haven’t had time to really fine-tune the BMW, so we haven’t maximised the car’s speed. We did well to make Q2 given I don’t have much hybrid and I think the lap I did in Q2 was the maximum. We’ll look at things tonight and hopefully make the car a bit quicker for the races.”
Stephen Jelley (Team BMW) said: “The BMW’s been pretty good in the wet and really good in the dry bit of qualifying. We definitely had top-10 potential today. Unfortunately, I had a spin near the end of Q1 and because the grass here is very lumpy, it’s damaged the floor and meant that while I got back to the pits, I couldn’t get back out, and then with the track at its driest all the times got better and I dropped down. My car is much better than 18th so I reckon we can make some major progress tomorrow.”
Dick Bennetts, Team Principal, said: “I’m happy to have three BMWs in the top 10, but we definitely had the pace to have all four in there in the wet or the dry. The team did an excellent job to fix Jake’s car after his incident, but seeing the times he was able to do, in a car that still wasn’t probably 100 per cent was very pleasing and encouraging for tomorrow.”